BBC suspends Tommy Sandhu over reported lewd comments and racist slurs
The BBC has suspended Host Tommy Sandhu from BBC Asian Network in a row over online messages littered with lewd comments and racist slurs.Host Tommy Sandhu, 40, was one of at least four colleagues allegedly part of WhatsApp groups sharing sexist comments as well as homophobic remarks and a derogatory term for Pakistanis.
One of the men in the messaging group allegedly made lewd remarks about Amy Elizabeth Childs, 31, a Radio 1 and 1Xtra producer with aspirations to be a presenter.Vile sexist comments were also made about female Asian Network staff, including young assistant producer Amanpreet Kaur.The WhatsApp messaging platform is highly encrypted and supposed to be impossible to crack. These messages were accidentally linked to a BBC laptop where Miss Kaur stumbled across them. Sources said the BBC has opened a major investigation and has already taken disciplinary action against some of those involved.
It is not clear how many people were part of the secret messaging groups but they included Asheesh Sharma and Kejal Kamani, two radio producers who routinely join Mr Sandhu on air, and a disc jockey known as DJ Sachy.It is not known if all the men made comments or if some were just part of the groups.Mr Sharma has been given a final written warning and Mr Kamani has been fired, it is understood. DJ Sachy, who has worked at the station as a freelance for years, has been told he will not get any more shifts, insiders said.
Sources close to Mr Sandhu claim he did not make derogatory comments himself and was simply part of WhatsApp groups where some of the remarks were made.The London-born host is currently fighting to save his job at the BBC, where he is also an occasional host of The One Show and BBC1’s religious and current affairs show Sunday Morning Live!He first caught the eye of bosses after being a contestant on Blind Date and later became the voice of ‘Our Graham’ who would tell host Cilla Black about the candidates.
BBC Asian Network staff also used the messaging groups to make vile homophobic slurs, calling one colleague a ‘batty boy’ and another a ‘Gandu’, Indian slang for bottom and a derogatory term for a homosexual. They also accused a fellow radio host of being gay, even though he is married.Embarrassingly for the BBC, the WhatsApp groups were also used to take racist pot-shots at PakistanisAccording to insiders, one of the men suggested they refuse to play any music by Pakistanis on the breakfast show even though the network was set up to cater to all Asian groups.
Another message referred to BBC entertainment reporter Haroon Rashid as a ‘Paki’. When one of the men did some work with Noreen Khan, another BBC Asian Network DJ, they were asked on the messaging group ‘have them Pakis converted you?’, according to sources.The matter came to light within the last week and has sparked alarm within the BBC. It is still reeling from public and staff anger over the huge disparity in its pay for men and women, and for white and non-white stars.
Yesterday insiders said that those caught up in the BBC Asian Network scandal have been warned not to speak to the press.Broadcasting union Bectu has also warned members not to discuss the matter.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘We never comment on matters concerning any individuals working with the BBC. Any allegations of inappropriate behaviour would always be taken extremely seriously and would be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.’The broadcaster has offered Miss Kaur a job elsewhere but she has opted to stay at the station.
The BBC Asian Network costs around £7.5million a year to run and is listened to by nearly 650,000 people a week, according to latest figures. It was nearly shut in 2010 when it was pulling in just 477,000 listeners a week. The station was reprieved on the proviso it boosted ratings and slashed its budget.
Miss Childs – who goes by the name Amy Elizabeth – declined to comment. ‘I just don’t think I can talk about that at the moment,’ she said. Mr Kamani and Mr Sandhu also declined to comment.
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